As the weather becomes progressively springlike...and seed catalogs start showing up in the mail I can't help but get excited about all that will soon be growing in my garden! Even though we live in a climate where you can successfully garden year round without the use of greenhouses and cold boxes...there is something magical about planting in the spring over the other seasons. The smell of the soil...the nurturing of a seedling...the fruit of your labors...the whole process is wonderful.
Depending on whom you are speaking to...either gardening...or genealogy is America's number one hobby. Which to me seems funny. If hobbies were gauged by what you spent the most time doing...watching TV and wasting time on the computer would be America's number one hobbies! But if it is true that genealogy and gardening are in the top two hobbies...that is a sign of something that is right with America!
I love that the true God of heaven is a God of agriculture....and teaches us by using agriculture. We will "reap what we sow"..."The parable of the sower"..."The wheat and the tares"..."the fig tree"..."Alma 32"..."Jacob 5's Allegory of the olive tree"..."the mustard seed"....etc...etc. One really comes to know what many of the parables and teachings truly mean...when they have worked in the fields with the elements that our Lord talks about. He would have us come to know Him through His creations...and promises us blessings for doing so.
While working with the land will help us to understand His doctrines more clearly...latter-day prophets have long spoken of other purposes to make gardening more than just a hobby. Read a few of my favorite quotes...
"As we approach the showdown, it will be increasingly valuable to have vocational skills--to be able to use our hands. The most essential temporal skills and knowledge are to be able to provide food, clothing, and shelter. Increasingly the Lord, through His servants, is trying to get us closer to the soil by raising our own produce." (EZRA TAFT BENSON "In His Steps")
"We encourage you to grow all the food that you feasibly can on your own property. Berry bushes, grapevines, fruit trees—plant them if your climate is right for their growth. Grow vegetables and eat them from your own yard" (Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 171; or Ensign, May 1976, 124).
“The little gardens and a few trees are very valuable. I remember when the sisters used to say, `well, but we could buy it at the store a lot cheaper than we could put it up.' But that isn't quite the answer, is it, Sister Spafford? Because there will come a time when there isn't a store.”(Spencer W. Kimball,GC April 1974Welfare Session)
"I do not want to be a calamity howler. I don't know in detail what's going to happen in the future. I know what the prophets have predicted. But I tell you that the welfare program, organized to enable us to take care of our own needs, has not yet performed the function that it was set up to perform. We will see the day when we will live on what we produce." (Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency,GC April 1975, Welfare session) Repeated at least 2 more times in GC (Victor L. Brown, “The Church and the Family in Welfare Services,” Ensign, May 1976, 110) & (J. Richard Clarke, Conference Report, Oct. 1980)
"There are blessings in being close to the soil, in raising your own food, even if it is only a garden in your yard and/or a fruit tree or two. Man’s material wealth basically springs from the land and other natural resources. Combined with his human energy and multiplied by his tools, this wealth is assured and expanded through freedom and righteousness. Those families will be fortunate who, in the last days, have an adequate supply of each of these particulars." (Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare Ye,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 68)
“The day will come, when, as we have been told, we shall all see the necessity of making our own shoes and clothing and raising our own food. …” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 166.) also (Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare Ye,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 68)
In a message to the Saints in July of 1970, President Joseph Fielding Smith stated that the pioneers “were taught by their leaders to produce, as far as possible, all that they consumed … This is still excellent counsel.” (Improvement Era, vol. 73 , p. 3.)Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare Ye,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 68
"Let us be in a position so we are able to not only feed ourselves through home production and storage, but others as well" (Ezra Taft Benson GC Oct. 1980)
"Those families will be fortunate who, in the last days, have an adequate supply of food because of their foresight and ability to produce their own" (Ezra Taft Benson GC Oct. 1980)
Now...I know enough about gardening to know that I don't know enough about gardening...but I have a few bits of advice given the above counsel and prophecies.
1. Learn to garden from seed. I know it is so easy just to buy the starter plants from the store...but one day there will be no store. One day it may just be a packet of seeds in your hand (if you had the foresight to store them) and the soil beneath your feet. If you are unfamiliar with seed planting methods...and have no one to guide you...there may be a great feeling of uneasiness at your abilities to have success.
2. Get at least a few gardening books for reference. It is so hard to remember what is to be done with every different variety. When do you plant...when do you harvest...identifying the good and bad bugs...identifying diseases...etc. There are lots of different opinions out there on gardening methods. Reading a variety of gardening books can help you see different points of view. Try them out and see what your results are. Hard copy books are what you want...not digital books or info on your computer. Thrift stores have a lot of great gardening books for a steal...and amazon has a lot for half the price that you would pay new.
3. Sign up for seed catalogs to come to your home. Good seed catalogs can be like a free library of plant info. It also can really be a motivator to get planting. You can do a search online for "seed catalogs" and find a bunch. I will do another article on seed and give some recommendations.
4. Store seeds known for their yield, quality, drought resistance, low soil requirements, ease to grow, nutrition....and of course...stuff you like to eat! I store mine it the refrigerator in ziploc bags. I prefer open-pollinated/heirloom varieties because I like to be able to have the self reliance of being able to save the seed to plant future crops.
5. Consider organic methods. If the only way you know how to grow a plant is when the landscaping place dumps all of the compost at your home...and you grow your plants with some sort of synthetic fertilizer...you may find yourself in poor shape when those things aren't available. Know how to make your own compost...how to get rid of bugs without spraying your vegetables with poison...how to make things grow with what you have on hand.
6. Take good care of your tools. Back in 1982 Boyd K. Packer reminded us of the words of Spencer W. Kimball when he said "“Take good care of your material possessions, for the day will come when they will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.” That shovel that you leave out in the weather may be the last one you own for a really...really long time. If my wife was looking over my shoulder right now she would be shouting "Hypocrite!!" I am working on this one. I have bad habit of working on projects until dark...and not leaving enough time for picking up...and then leaving stuff out overnight or overnights.
7. Make a place for gardening on your property. I'd encourage all to take to heart the counsel from Spencer W. Kimball and to "grow all of the food that you feasibly can on your own property". Rip out ornamental plants and replace them with plants that will feed you. There is a book out there called "edible landscaping". I saw it at the library one day and thumbed through it. There are some BEAUTIFUL edible plants out there that look GREAT! It is not necessary to sacrifice the look of your property for having food plants. Another suggestion would be to investigate container gardening. With very few exceptions it is possible to grow most vegetables in a container.
8. Keep a journal of what you do. It is so hard from season to season to remember what you did when...and how you did it. A journal helps you to repeat successes and avoid repeating failures.9. Just try! While some plants are really unforgiving...so many will still thrive...even with complete neglect. This last season I planted a tomato plant from seed and after it had grown a bit...I purposefully didn't water it again. It struggled and stayed small...but it actually bore fruit!! Tomato's by the way are the number one backyard garden vegetable for a reason...they will take all kinds of abuse and keep on ticking. Every gardener has failures and successes...just give them a try! Pick some tried and true favorites for our climate and just try them out! Worse case scenario is that you are out a couple of bucks on a packet of seed. Best case is you have produce that is superior in flavor to what is available at the market!
10. Slow down and enjoy it. It can be a chore you rue....or a way to relax and remember God...it's up to you! Sit by a bed full of weeds and think about how Christ spoke of weeds choking the word. Observe things more closely...there is a lot of wonder in the veins on a leaf...enjoy the scent in the air...the feel of the soil in your hands. If you need help in that department...read this talk.